“There’s Something Different Going On…”
I had an executive ask me recently if it was normal for several members of his young sales team to be playing ping pong at 10:30 in the morning. He explained that he inquired of them playing in the sales bullpen and they said they had already made their calls for the day and sent out their emails. Hundreds of contacts that morning even.
The executive was genuinely confused. “Something about this just doesn’t seem right,” he told me. “Is that how it works these days in sales.”
There was another VP of Sales who told me that an investment firm had pointed out a similar frustration in observing the activity metrics and behavior patterns of the sales reps in one of their portfolio companies. As the VP put it: “There’s something different going on out there.”
What’s actually going on here?
There’s a common viewpoint that all things sales can be automated. I actually believe this is true at many levels: marketing/sales lead generation, lead scoring/qualification, lead acceptance, initial engagement/communication, opportunity/solution development, and opportunity tracking/forecasting, even pipeline reviews. In many environments there are logical points along the sales process spectrum that lend themselves to wise and efficient automation.
Here’s the problem. There are dozens of applications that automate each of the steps/functions listed above. Some are rich, comprehensive and integrated into popular CRMs; some are light and stand-alone. Some have crept into departments; some have run amok across the enterprise. Some are legacy solutions from a past regime; some are new tools that caught the fancy of a vocal internal stakeholder, or even from a vocal board member.
And they all work well enough to lead to an insidious problem if not managed by Sales Leadership – sales operational dysfunction.
In many organizations we encounter I’ll find the SDR or BDR team (Sales/Business Development Reps) running a designated process that has morphed over time or been honed or proactively developed by Marketing and/or Sales or Operations leadership. The lead generation or pre-qualification process actually is working or is horribly broken, or something in between. Often, all the major players recognize the true status. There is invariably sales software in play that is functional but not optimized. In some cases, process is so dictated and enamored so as to leave salespeople free by 10:30am to play ping pong.
I’ll often find the Account Executive and Account Management team to be seasoned and professional yet laden with a hodgepodge of practices and processes that work but are not shared, or work outside the ‘system” with their own apps, spreadsheets, and tools. The result is inconsistency and non-scaling best-practices which forces Sales Management to be either really good at herding cats or woefully ineffective and frustrated.
In this environment, optimized and consistent Opportunity Management, accurate Sales Forecasting and Pipeline Management are all victims of this sales operational dysfunction.
The Fix – Dynamic Sales Content/Process/Training Enablement
In fact, there is something very fresh and new brewing out there in the sales arena. It’s a natural evolution of sales automation mania and all of its inherent dysfunction. Out of the burgeoning chaos of the past few years has emerged a new generation of just-in-time software solutions aligning sales content management, sales process execution excellence, and modular sales training/coaching and certification.
These solutions are modern, flexible and affordable. And they don’t just work for the big organizations. Solutions are now scaled down for teams of 5 to 100 salespeople.
The good news is that most companies have a reasonable foundation of sales content, tools, and clarified processes with which to work. Even training materials. The bad newsis they don’t know how to effectively and efficiently pull it all together, while collaboratively overhauling and recasting as appropriate, and delivering/installing it across a lean, clean and new solution platform that has legs.
Yes, sales automation is here to stay. Smart sales automation, that is, with a new fresh field of integrated solutions that will keep the entire sales team working wisely, effectively, and efficiently throughout the new day. Stay tuned.